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New state-mandated profiles to assess kindergarten readiness
Centennial Arts Academy kindergarten student Angela Fajardo gets to spend time with the classroom iPad after she finishes her studies before story time.

A child entering kindergarten may already know how to read, while a classmate may not know one letter of the alphabet.

This discrepancy can make teaching a group of kindergartners difficult. The State Board of Education wants to create a profile to help teachers determine a kindergartner’s preparedness for learning.

At the board’s November meeting, plans were approved to hire a developer of a new Kindergarten Entry Profile, which would launch statewide in 2017.

The purpose is to clarify each student’s readiness level upon entering kindergarten and to identify the gaps between students in the classroom.

Amanda Kemp, kindergarten teacher at Centennial Arts Academy in Gainesville, said the readiness of kindergartners every year is “across the board.”

“It can be a night-and-day difference,” Kemp said. “We have tons who have never been in a school setting before and have been at home for five years. Then we have some who were in day care since they were 6 weeks old.”

Kemp said even kindergartners who attended preschool can differ in their readiness, because the quality of preschools can vary drastically.

“Some come in knowing nothing, speaking no English, and others come in already learning to read,” she said.

The new profiles will be developed from an assessment, not a standardized test, administered during the first six weeks of kindergarten.

Jackie Farmer, kindergarten teacher at Chestnut Mountain Creative School of Inquiry in Hall County, said her school already administers a similar test and uses it for the same purpose.

“It’s about, ‘Do they know their numbers? Do they know their letters? Do they know their letter sounds or their shapes and colors?’” Farmer said. “We do that in the first few weeks of school anyway.”

Kemp said many city schools, including Centennial, also assess their kindergartners. Centennial has administered an assessment for the last four or five years.

“We actually mail them a letter in May,” she said. “We have them come in before the school year so we can assess them and see where everybody is going to be before we start the school year.”

State officials said they hope the profile will inform instruction, allowing educators to identify students who need additional support or challenge in specific areas, which could close the school readiness gap at kindergarten entry.

Farmer said she uses the assessment for instruction in small groups.

“We put them in different reading groups or math groups, according to the skill levels of the children,” she said.

Kemp said even though many schools across the state likely already have an assessment of their own, having a state-mandated one could benefit everybody.

“The most beneficial thing about it will be that everyone will be uniform,” she said. “Parents and preschools and day cares that are working with these kids ahead of time would know what is expected when they come into the school setting.”

Kemp said many parents today underestimate the expectation of kindergartners.

“School has changed from when parents were in kindergarten,” she said. “They don’t realize what is expected, and we spend a lot of time telling them it’s not what it used to be and they need to be prepared.”